by Laura Castanza and Julia George
What distinguishes the human species from any other on the planet is the level of emotion we experience. Although other species experience and express emotion, the complexity of human emotion surpasses that of the natural world. Every experience we have lived through since our conception is linked by the mind and intellect to feelings which become the foundation of our reality, limiting our view. It is only through self exploration and the desire to break free of this narrow view of our self and this world, are we able to actually change the way we feel. This task is the most arduous of healing our self; and like building a muscle, it must be practiced religiously if we are to transform.
Emotional awareness is the key component to present moment awareness, the awareness of our surroundings, including the feelings that arise during each experience. Yet often we are not present in the moment as thoughts from the past prelude our aspirations for the future. In this meantime (the present), we are absent and therefore recreate experiences mostly to our displeasure. To successfully interrupt and transform such patterns, we must objectively observe our emotional states.
Our five senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell) are the primal indicators of where we are in relation to our physical surroundings; however, the sixth sense commonly referred to as our intuition, is emotionally based. It can assess situations and guide us prior to the initiation of our other five senses. But because our sixth sense has not been perceived like the other five, we tend to disregard the information received, because feelings are not tangible. To discern what is truly happening, an objective approach to all sensory awareness is necessary.
How are we able to objectively approach our senses? Only the word “discipline” can describe what it takes to be more than ever thought possible. When we awaken to the more spiritual significance of our existence on this planet, there is greater ease in objectifying our experiences as we become more connected to the interrelatedness of the Universe. We begin to understand more fully the effect we have on our surroundings, and seek change. The discipline necessary to offset our previously unconscious drives is to retrain and recreate our self through our most intelligent body, the mind.
The mind is the library/computer of our life, taking in information, cataloging and categorizing all our experiences for future reference. If we are living unconsciously, the mind operates on autopilot, sending signals to react to stimuli based on current sensory input and past memory of the feelings that arise. We are primitive in such a state, labeling what we are feeling as pleasure or pain and pass judgment. Judgment acts as a self-defense mechanism comprised of dark criticisms projected onto others in an effort to hide our own inadequacies and feelings of low self esteem. It becomes most obvious when we label others or situations as “good” or “bad”. Conversations with others denoting complaint, dissatisfaction, sarcasm, and/or condescension indicate self judgment being expressed.
Judgment is not entirely negative as we can assess dangerous or high risk scenarios. However, when we pass judgment in common life situations while interacting with others, we hinder our ability to receive new information necessary for our growth. Judgment alone does not prevent us from experiencing something new; it is the attachment to our perception that holds our judgment firmly in place, keeping us disconnected from others. When our perception is locked down, then our feelings (usually negative) remain supported as well.
In a world where love rules, it could be argued that strong holds in perception and feeling are positive. But our existence is one of duality where we experience love and fear, joy and sorrow, right and wrong, light and dark, etc. When we cling to one or the other, we impede the flow of life. Holding onto any of these feelings leaves us trapped, stuck, and destined to repeat painful cycles. It is a Universal law that nothing remains the same. If we accept this truth, then our life will improve.
Acceptance of all beings and life as it is, is the first step towards shifting our perceptions and changing the way we feel. It is only from this grounded position that we have the stability to see the problem so that we can change it. Often times we try to control everything around us externally, instead of working with the sensation-driven feelings internally. Because we “react” to sensations more than “respond” with intelligence to situations, we make less than adequate decisions. The lure is immediate gratification, and when that is sought, self sacrifice or self sabotage results.
We have a fair amount of energy to put into our choices, without overriding our senses with intelligence, or vice versa. Normally, we are compelled to follow and satisfy our senses, a primal or lower level drive reinforced by the standards of our predecessors and peers kept firmly in place for generations. Yet when we engage our emotional awareness, the same amount of energy can be applied towards conscious choices through linking our mind with our emotions. The result is heart-felt rational choices that positively affect a bigger picture.
Practicing emotional awareness is our most challenging endeavor. We are constantly reacting to external stimuli through instinct which causes us to resist or run from most situations. To effectively practice, we often must decelerate our self to engage in present moment awareness; literally slow our self down. This naturally transforms our reactions to appropriate responses. The best means towards this transformation is through conscious breathing.
When we consciously breathe, our focus shifts to self care and wellness. It also opens our heart space through the mere action of air intake. Our chest widens and becomes more flexible with each breath. The life force we invite in becomes the dominant energy in the situation, calming our mind and surrounding environment. The whole world seems to respond more positively, and a manageable moment is created. Even if we are in the presence of another who is losing control, we maintain a healthier level through this primary self care mechanism; the one “losing it” is more likely to calm down when no one “buys into” or is affected by the projection.
Even when we open our heart space and become better at receiving information, we still must observe our mind’s interpretations carefully. It took a lifetime to make us, and can take the remainder (or more) to change our feelings. Our attitudes reflect our current thinking process. When we are not consciously practicing a spiritual belief system that supports inner peace, we can easily become derailed by the suddenness of life. As soon as we regain consciousness/awareness of what is happening, we can simply decide whether our attitude is positive or negative. Do we see possibilities or a dead-end? History tends to steer our thinking to dead-end, but when we “lighten up” through our awareness, we can embrace challenge and embrace change with open arms.
Changing the way we feel through disciplined practice is well and good. But a close spiritual support system is necessary to hold these truths to the fire, and call us out on any discrepancies in our thought processes and actions. There is little hope in seeking to change through our own work if we surround our self with negative living or work situations and people that want to keep everything “status quo”. When we surround our self with a network of positive energy, we are more likely to succeed in truly shifting the way we feel, bringing greater peace within as well as light and authenticity to this world.
For more information or to discuss this topic one-on-one, contact Julia George at [email protected] or 561-750-9292.